March is upon us, and we are drawing close to Holy Week. I pray and hope that your Lenten season has been meaningful and powerful.
I think of Lent as an adventure in drawing close. It's an adventure because it's rugged wilderness time for us, when our faith becomes so easily sterile and fragile. After all, Lent is not just about giving up chocolate or getting ready for Easter. It's a time that mirrors the time of Jesus in the wilderness for forty days. It's a time of getting away and out in God's great wilderness of nature, of facing the demons without and within, and allowing the Word of God well up inside of you to give you strength, perspective, and peace. When Jesus emerged from the wilderness, he was passionate and ready for ministry. I pray we will be too.
We go through lots of wilderness times in life, it's part of our rhythm. It's a good thing we can't remember being born, because I imagine it's cold and bright and scary. We grow up and we go through the teenage years, which are tough times of emotional swings and trying our best to fit in and find our way. We pursue college and career, which can be very stressful and lacking in clarity and direction. We get married, and the early years of marriage are a wilderness of intrigue, full of difficulties as well as triumphs we were not expecting. We go through the wilderness of becoming parents, and every child is so different that each one would have to have their own instruction book, even if there were such a thing. We go through the wilderness of our 30's when we are trying so hard to build our lives, and through our 40's when we are having our mid-life crises because our lives are not working out quite like we'd hoped. I can't tell you much about the 50's and beyond (I'll let you know) but I know they will have their own unique wilderness experiences.
While some of the wilderness times are part of the rhythm and seasons of life, sometimes they are because of experiences that come our way. My family and I are, once again, going through the wilderness of grief over losing Sandy's dear mother. This is something we all must face, and yet in all the difficulties blessings abound and peace comes, even tears of joy and gratitude.
So Lent is not just an annual season of giving up something and reading scripture and devotionals. It's a liturgical rhythm that gives language and perspective to the wilderness times we all go through. There is something in the Lenten experience that gives life a sense of holiness, knowing that Jesus can be our model for what it means to go through wilderness and emerge stronger than you were before.